You might not expect family tree freeware to keep pace with the bells and whistles of its commercial brethren. But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ newest version of Personal Ancestral File (PAF), 5.2, proves — again — that in the realm of full-featured genealogy software, the best things can be free.
PAF gives you a lot of power without a steep learning curve. The program is known for efficient data entry, outstanding printed reports and a sleek user interface. PAF’s latest enhancements — customized data-entry screens and extended foreign-language support — strengthen that reputation.
You’ll have a tough time finding easier genealogy software than PAF. Its electronic manuals, lessons and help files are all exceptionally well-written. And a right-click of the mouse brings up a menu of options from almost anywhere in the program.
PAF’s Pedigree view (shown below), a profile of five generations of your family, really sets PAF apart from most other genealogy software. You can easily navigate up and down your family tree, edit an individual record, print a report and then return to pedigree view. No other Windows program makes data entry so simple or displays your family information so clearly.
Customized individual and marriage screens in version 5.2 make data entry even more efficient. If you rarely need the christening field but routinely record occupations and cite census records, you can create a new individual template with only the fields you need — and in the order you prefer.
No matter what language your ancestors spoke, PAF 5.2 probably supports it. Now you can type names, places and other text with Cyrillic letters (for languages such as Russian), as well as Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters.
PAF’s printed and Web reports are well-designed. PAF doesn’t create fancy graphical charts; for that, you need an add-on program, PAF Companion ($13.50, available from <www.progenysoftware.com> or <www.familysearch.org>), which produces many reports and charts, including wall charts, fan charts and box charts with photos.
PAF handles multimedia, too. You can attach digitized pictures, video clips and sound files to individual records and source citations. And you can include the pictures on reports and create interactive scrapbooks and slide shows.
Not only is PAF one of the best genealogy programs, the price is right. You can download the software for free from <www.familysearch.org>. It’s a large file (10MB), so you might prefer to order the program on CD for $6 on the Web site or at (800) 537-5950. PAF 5.2 requires Windows 95 or higher and 20 to 60MB hard disk space.